Before a performance by Detroit's country rock artist Uncle Kracker, Mayor Dave Bing took the stage of downtown's Gem Theatre with Richard Flynn, category sales director for autos at HuffPost parent company AOL.
The two announced a partnership between the mayor and company to support the city's Active and Safe Detroit campaign.
The campaign is a collaboration between public and private sources. AOL will work with Bing's office "to promote awareness of the recreation centers with the goal to help raise private funds, provide technology upgrades and tutorials and challenge the Detroit advertising community to get involved in helping the city we call home," Flynn wrote.
Bing said they have accrued $15 million of the planned $50 million for the campaign geared to decrease crime, improve public health and keep rec centers operational. When he took the microphone Thursday, he reflected on their importance in his own life.
"I grew up in recreation centers in Washington DC, and I know, that if it were not for the recreation centers … I'm not sure where I would have wound up," he said. "Probably not standing in front of you tonight. There was adult supervision, there were a lot of programs in the rec centers that drew a lot of young people to congregate and try to figure out what we were going to do with our lives. They tried to do things to keep us out of trouble."
In August, Bing announced his plan to keep rec centers open through private partnerships after cutting the city's Recreation Department budget back $18 to $10 million. At the time, the Detroit Free Press reported foundations and nonprofits had committed to funding the new Recreation Trust with $24 million over three years.
The city has 17 rec centers, down from 31, Bing said.
"I made a commitment early in my administration that we were not going to close any more," he said. "As I've talked to a lot of our citizens, both young and old, one of the things they didn't want to see was the closure of any of those rec centers."
Bing said he believes in using the support of outside groups, including foundations, business leaders and nonprofits, alluding to some concern over growing privatization in the city.
"We do have some people in government and in our city who think we can do this by ourselves," he said. "I am not of that ilk. I don't think we're going to bring this city back by ourselves. We need help."
The Mayor also hit a lighter note, acknowledging the Detroit Tigers' recent sweep by the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. The mayor had made a bet with his SF counterpart Mayor Edwin Lee over which team would win. Though they contemplated traditional bet consequences, like sending a case of Coney Dogs, the two local dignitaries settled on the more fitting "punishment" of a day of community service with the winning city's youth. Bing will go to San Francisco on Monday.
"So, I lost the bet," he said. "But I'm happy to go to San Francisco, because I'm going to do something and learn something out there, ... what they're doing with their young people, what they're doing with their rec centers, what they're doing with public safety and see whether or not there are things that I can learn and bring back and share with our leadership here."
And what did Uncle Kracker -- whose "follow me, everything is alright" lyric has likely never before been applied to Detroit leadership -- have to say about everything?
"Mayor Bing is a good man," the singer said.